Ayanna Howard
Dr. Ayanna Howard
Georgia Institute of Technology
GA

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Close Up
  • Why Engineering?
    I was inspired by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs.  I decided at age 11 that I wanted to create artificial limbs for people. I planned to go to medical school, but discovered I hated biology—especially dissecting frogs. Then I heard about robotics and realized that, if I became an engineer, I could do exactly what I wanted to do.
  • School Days
    B.S. in electrical engineering, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
  • My Day At Work
    I teach and conduct research at Georgia Tech.  I am working to discover new ways that robots can help both in space exploration and in assisting people on Earth.
  • Proud Moments
    Working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I developed the next generation of Mars rover. Through artificial intelligence, this robot will be independent-minded enough to explore the Martian terrain on its own, without having its every move programmed by a human.
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    Don't be afraid to learn the basics, and definitely keep your imagination alive. After all, engineering is about bringing new things to life!
  • Additional Thoughts
    I was inspired by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs.
  • Hobbies
    I like traveling and going to see live jazz bands. I also love watching science fiction movies and cartoons with my son.
Biography

Ayanna has designed robots that can think for themselves. When she was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she worked on developing the next generation of Mars rover. Through artificial intelligence, this robot was designed to be independent-minded enough to explore the Martian terrain on its own, without having its every move programmed by a human. On a future mission to Mars, Ayanna's robot would have been able to collect and analyze data and samples that may help determine whether life ever existed on the Red Planet. Ayanna is now teaching and researching at Georgia Tech, working to discover new ways that robots can help both in space exploration and in assisting people on Earth.  Inspired by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs, Ayanna decided at age 11 that she wanted to create artificial limbs for people. She planned to go to medical school, but discovered she hated biology—especially dissecting frogs. Then she heard about robotics and realized that, if she became an engineer, she could do exactly what she wanted to do.  Ayanna developed a math and science mentoring program for junior high school girls. She’s also volunteered as a computer tutor at a shelter for battered women. She likes traveling and going to see live jazz bands. Ayanna also loves watching science fiction movies and cartoons with her son.  See a great video of Ayanna and her Mars robot on PBS’s Dragonfly TV. 

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Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
Latest Questions
  • Mariam asked Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology

    Added Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 1:24 PM

    Hi! I'm in a summer program for Girls Who Code, and we recently had a debate on whether robots can actually think or would have the ability to think like humans do. I personally don't think so, but this question really interests me. Thanks!
    Related to Computer, Electrical
    Answers 1
    Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Answered Monday, July 30, 2018 at 8:54 AM
    Yes, robots can be taught to think and taught to mimic the decision-making power of humans, but they do not process information exactly the same way humans do. For example, we can teach robots to recognize emotions by figuring out how humans recognize ...Read More
  • Cat Monty asked Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology

    Added Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 11:10 AM

    I'm researching you for school project and you are pretty amazing
    Answers 1
    Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Answered Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 1:39 PM
    I truly do enjoy designing, building, and programming the intelligence of robotic systems. Robotics allows me to not only be creative by using my engineering and computer science skills but allows me to geek out on amazing technology.
  • Miss Meyer's Fourth Graders, Lisbon, ND asked Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology

    Added Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 3:15 PM

    Hi Dr. Howard! We read about you in science class today and found this website. We have some questions for you! How long did it take you to actually make a fully functioning robot like SmartNav or SnoMote? How successful have SmartNav and SnoMote been at answering questions for scientists? Have you had any other jobs besides being a roboticist? Let us know if you can answer any of these questions. Great work with all of your robots!
    Related to Electrical, Internships & Jobs
    Answers 1
    Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Answered Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 3:15 PM

    How long did it take you to actually make a fully functioning robot like SmartNav or SnoMote?
    It took about one year to build a working prototype and one more to get it functioning robustly in hazardous environment, with smarts.

    Have you had any other ...

    Read More
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